Review: Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace



Envy of Angels

Book One of Sin du Jour

by Matt Wallace

Fantasy | Novella | 225 Pages | Published by Tor in 2015


| Rating |


In this madcap introduction to Sin du Jour – the most exclusive and eccentric caterers in town – Matt Wallace throws the reader head-first down a wilfully chaotic, potentially disturbing and really rather entertaining path. Envy of Angels is a wonderfully formed novella which impresses with its quirky storyline and its buffet of colourful characters who delight and disgust in equal measure. With a distinctive culinary twist to its urban fantasy label, the narrative is a non-stop riot from beginning to end and takes a refreshing look at a genre which often falls back on the same familiar tropes.In New York, eating out can be hell.

Everyone loves a well-catered event, and the supernatural community is no different, but where do demons go to satisfy their culinary cravings?

Welcome to Sin du Jour – where devils on horseback are the clients, not the dish.

When Lena and Darren are offered a job by one of the most prestigious chefs in town, they jump at the chance to work for his exclusive catering company, Sin du Jour. The trifling fact that said gastronome was supposed to have died several years ago does little to dissuade them from accepting such a unique opportunity – after all, what could possibly go wrong?

But there are only so many canapés two cooks can make before the strange and exotic ingredients liberally stuffed, rolled and baked into their dishes raise more questions than are answered. With a clientèle of dangerous demons and horrifying hellspawn renowned for their voracious appetites, just what on god’s green earth are Sin du Jour cooking? 

With unimpeded curiosity come disturbing revelations – and none more so than in Envy of Angels. Wallace’s culinary take  on the world of urban fantasy opens up a whole new avenue of delectable delights and disgusting creations for the reader to feast on. In a narrative where the clientèle and the main course compete for strangeness, Wallace concentrates only on the details required to drive the narrative forwards and to nail every disturbing picture and ridiculous situation home. With descriptions of entrées, appetisers, and various vile dishes taking the fore, Envy of Angels is a mêlée of madness, monsters and tasty morsels (apparently) which paints a vivid picture of a really rather disturbing world.

The cast of Envy of Angels are an insane assortment of the strange who burst into the narrative wielding knives, forks and copious amounts of zeal. From the rough and ready collection squad and the super chill bus-boys, to the ‘resigned-to-their-fate’ kitchen crew and the head chef himself, this is a novella which delights in throwing every one of its characters into the culinary equivalent of a warzone. And though these characters often slip into the style of caricatures, these quick snap-shot introductions go a long way to providing a clear picture of a world populated with an enormous cast of characters in a compact and driven narrative.

And into this world are thrust our two protagonists, Lena and Darren, whose lives are irrevocably changed when they come under the attention of the renowned gourmet, Bronko. Lena is a tough, self-assured ex-soldier who succeeds effortlessly but will always make certain that Darren is by her side. Darren meanwhile is a character who has hidden strengths, whose bravery may be smothered beneath an outer shell of cowardice but is nevertheless there. This duo are the anchor points in this strange new world, going hand-in-hand with the reader on a path of culinary enlightenment and around whom much of the action and chaos orbit.

The first novella in the Sin du Jour series provides a distinctive and refreshing outlook from an author who takes great pains to unceremoniously thrust the reader into unimpeded chaos. Constructed in succinct and direct prose, this self contained adventure succeeds in keeping the reader on the brink of the action in a world which is surprisingly familiar but retains an utterly unique (and slightly crazy) quality throughout. Wallace’s engaging style, undeniable wit and quirky narrative make this this strange foray into hell’s kitchen an effortlessly fun and disturbing joy to read.

If you’re craving a dash of the strange then Envy of Angels is the perfect dish – compact and amusing, this is a novella which takes the reader on an entertaining journey through Wallace’s wonderfully surreal mind. A short and wickedly sweet read, this is a story which all urban fantasy fans should try sinking their teeth into; but if you find yourself dining with a battalion of hellspawn, try not to think what it is you’re eating – the truth may be a little more than any human can stomach.

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